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Keynote Address From Cardinal Bertone

8/19/2007 - 6:50 AM PST

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"Role of the Lay Faithful"


NASHVILLE, Tennessee, AUG. 19, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's Aug. 8 keynote address at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus.

The text is provided by the Knights of Columbus.

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Celebrating 125 years of Faith in Action: Witnessing to the 'Yes' of Jesus Christ

Address of His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B.
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
August 8, 2007
Knights of Columbus 125th Supreme Convention

First of all, allow me once again to express my sincere gratitude to Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and fellow Knights for the invitation to visit Nashville for this historic 125th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. I am honored by the opportunity to address all of you this evening on a topic as dear to me as it is to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI: "Faith in Action: Witnessing to the 'Yes' of Jesus Christ."

This evening, I will reflect on the importance of this "Yes" for the Church's lay faithful. I will indicate some of the primary characteristics of the lay vocation within the Church and in society at large, and I will point to a few particular challenges facing the laity today.

Both in his work as a theologian and now in his ministry as the successor of Peter, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly drawn attention to the distinctive and irreplaceable role of the laity in the renewal of the Church's mission in the modern world. At 78 years of age, Pope Benedict said "Yes" to his brother cardinals, to the Church, and to the Holy Spirit when he was asked to accept the Petrine ministry after the long and remarkable reign of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father's willingness to assume pastoral duties as Chief Shepherd of the universal Church bore witness to the fundamental attitude required of every Christian -- Pope, Bishop, priest, consecrated, or lay person; it is the disposition exemplified in our Lady's humble but sure response to the Lord's heavenly messenger in Nazareth: "Fiat!" -- "Yes!"

The "Yes!" of Faith in Jesus Christ

But what exactly is the essence of this "Yes"? More specifically, how is one to live it out as a member of the laity?

In regard to the first question, this "Yes" is quite simply the "Yes" of faith. It is our full, unmitigated acceptance of Jesus as Lord and our commitment to follow him as master and teacher. Indeed, the word "Yes" only makes sense within the context of a dialog between two persons: someone who utters the "Yes" and someone who accepts it. In the case of faith, the person to whom we utter this "Yes" is none other than the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Eternal Word made flesh. Pope Benedict has emphasized the critical need for each of us to encounter Jesus; more importantly, he has shown and continues to show -- both in his words and through his life -- that true fulfilment, joy, and lasting peace can only be found by saying "Yes" to God's plan of salvation as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Only in intimate communication with the incarnate Son of God do we discover the grace to "put our faith into action."

Your founder Father Michael McGivney was prophetic -- indeed, well ahead of his time -- in that he clearly understood that this complete and total "Yes" to Christ was in no way exclusive to those who received holy orders or had taken religious vows. On the contrary, it is a "Yes" required of every man and every woman.

As a young curate at Saint Mary's Church in New Haven, Father McGivney became keenly aware of the laity's need to be actively and fully engaged in the life of the Church by exercising virtue, cultivating prayer, and caring for others. He had a deep appreciation for the special characteristics of the lay vocation as being thoroughly immersed in the spheres of the family, civil society, and public life. He made it his goal to develop practical ways of ensuring that faith could be put into concrete action: especially by providing for the material needs of orphans, widows, the imprisoned, alcoholics, the unemployed, and the destitute.

However, it is sometimes easy to forget that Father McGivney's conviction was based on an even more fundamental insight: namely, that our concern for the needy and our perseverance in charitable works will eventually become attenuated and deprived of their deeper meaning if they are not rooted in faith -- faith understood as the indwelling of Holy Trinity in our hearts through divine grace as we renew our "Yes" each day to the person of Jesus Christ.

Faith and Love

This is precisely the message Pope Benedict XVI conveys through his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est. When asked why he devoted his first Encyclical to the theme of love, he replied that he wished to ...

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